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The EU promises to take a significant leap towards a more sustainable future with the European Declaration on Cycling signed this week. The commitment sees Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean alongside key EU figures endorse cycling as a key part of Europe’s mobility. The declaration aims to integrate safe, extensive cycling networks with public transport, ensuring secure bike parking and e-bike charging stations. These changes are designed to enhance infrastructure, increase cycling’s appeal, and support the EU’s broader industrial and environmental goals.

Why is this important?

Cycling is one of the most sustainable and energy-efficient modes of mobility, especially in urban areas. The EU’s declaration acknowledges positive measures around promoting cycling as a way forward.

Underpinning the agreement is a collective acknowledgment of cycling’s multifaceted benefits; it stands as an antidote to urban congestion, a driver of healthier lifestyles, and a vital cog in the European industrial machine. This strategic pivot towards cycling dovetails with the overarching EU industrial strategy and its environmental objectives.

A historic step in EU transport policy

As Europe grapples with the imperative of emissions reduction, the European Declaration on Cycling emerges as a pivotal instrument. It carries symbolic weight and is hailed by cycling advocates as a milestone despite its lack of legal force. The document is the fruit of interinstitutional collaboration, signed by all three EU institutions, and it sets out a clear political commitment that should guide both present and future initiatives related to cycling.

The declaration crystallizes the EU’s ambition to double the number of kilometers cycled across the union by 2030. This aspiration received a groundswell of support during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 16 EU member states previously articulating their vision through a separate declaration in 2022.

Shifting gears towards sustainability

Commissioner Vălean’s endorsement of the declaration places the onus of implementation on the shoulders of governments and regions. This approach recognizes the necessity for localized action to foster cycling’s growth within various European contexts. The declaration aligns with the Brussels Declaration on “the mobility of tomorrow”, emphasising a modal shift towards more sustainable transport forms, including rail transport, as central to EU mobility policy.

Furthermore, the declaration recognizes the bicycle’s role not just as transport but as a contributor to European society and economy, highlighting its potential to support sustainable tourism and local economies. This is coupled with a commitment to improving multimodal connectivity, notably between cycling and other transport modes, such as trains and buses, in urban and rural settings.

Creating a world-class cycling industry

The declaration is seen as a catalyst for economic growth on the industry front. Tony Grimaldi, President of Cycling Industries Europe (CIE), projects that cycling could create over 1 million new jobs in the EU by 2030 and emphasizes the economic benefits of affordable bike access. The CIE calls for the 36 commitments set out in the declaration to be turned into action, particularly with the European Commission elections on the horizon in June 2024.

The declaration aims to stimulate European leadership in cycling, urging member states to invest in infrastructure that creates new markets and supports the bicycle service sector. This focus on market development and job creation is expected to yield a significant return on investment and contribute to the EU’s mobility, climate, environmental, public health, and economic objectives.

With the declaration now signed, the real work begins. Implementation will require an integrated approach across governance levels and the harmonization of policies to foster a true cycling culture in Europe.